The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

3 Rules Based Solutions to the 5 Minute Day

I must admit that I have rarely had a problem with my players abusing the mechanics related to sleep in D&D; if anything I have had far more problems with players who don’t know when to quit, and so limp and crawl into encounters they aren’t equipped to handle with disastrous results.

So perhaps I am not the best to evaluate what a good solution to the “5-minute workday” is, still I was intrigued when Paul over at Blog of Holding suggested that the reason story based solutions don’t work to this problem is that they are passive solutions; they aren’t actually fixing the problem, they are trying to out do it.

This makes a lot of sense to me. If you have a group that is so fixated by the statistical benefits of rest that they want to do it all the time, forcing them into situations where the plot drives them to not rest (plot based solutions are the normal suggested cure to the 5 minute workday) doesn’t really get rid of the problem – they will all want to rest immediately the first time the plot isn’t forcing them to. Moreover, since you aren’t curing the problem you would have to make every plot a time dependent race in order to stay on top of things.

So what Paul suggests is appealing to the nature of players like these; give them a statistical benefit to not stopping. I thought I’d take this idea and expand upon it, so here are some mechanics I think you could change if you were trying to convince players to stop resting all the time.

The original 5-minute workday.

1. Loosen Up The Action Points
Paul already suggests giving out more action points, but I think the real problem with action points (as a way of keeping players pushing forward) is that only one can be spent per encounter. Frequently characters don’t really need them so much early in the day when they have all their other resources, but desperately need them late when resources are thin. Allowing characters to hoard them then have a huge spending spree could go a long ways towards encouraging endurance.

2. Give a Raw Bonus at Every Milestone
If accumulating action points isn’t enough of a plus for players, how about just out right giving them pluses as the day goes on. This could be as simple as a +1 to attack roles for every milestone they reach. If you are worried about abuses this could instead be a +1 for every certain amount of XP. Alternatively, in 4E, you could give plus a plus for every resource that is burnt off, like +1 after you use your daily and +1 for every 3 healing surges spent.

By the end of the day the players could be sitting on a very large bonus they don’t want to give up. (possibly to the point of having my problem, players who don’t know when to back off)

3. Increase XP
If making the characters more powerful as the day goes on doesn’t convince them, then you could try modifying the XP system to give greater rewards as the day goes on. Perhaps the simplest form of this would be to just modify the XP earned at the end of the day by a fraction equal to how many encounter they actually did over how many you felt they should have done; so the group who did a 5 minute day might only receive 1/5th of the normal XP, while if the same group had pressed on late into the day they might have earned 8/5th of normal XP.

A somewhat more complex formula would be to affect the amount of XP received in each encounter based on its position in the day. The first encounter of the day might only be worth 50% the normal XP, the second worth 75%, the third worth normal, and the fourth worth 125% and so on.

Even more complex would be to make XP based off of how many resources the characters had at the start of the encounter. For example, if you had 4 characters with one daily power each, you could say that the XP for an encounter was equal to (8-x)/8 where x is the number of dailies they had at the start of the encounter.

A somewhat different idea, would be to not award all the XP for an encounter at the moment that encounter ends. The group might earn 50% of the normal XP for an encounter at the moment it ends. Then another 25% when they complete the next encounter, and the final 25% when they compete the encounter after that.

The Real Solution

So having had fun with the idea of modifying the rules, I think I should admit to what I would really do if my players were resting constantly. I would sit them down after the session and talk to them about it. I would ask them why they think its necessary, tell them that I find it very disruptive, and then make sure that they are very aware that while they take a break, the villains are preparing for them. Further if they make a habit of always taking breaks I have to increase to difficulty of adventures, leaving them worse off than if they had kept a more sane rest schedule.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.


December 2, 2010 - Posted by | 4E, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , ,


  1. Back in the day, the “penalty” for resting on or near a battlefield was a wandering monster. I think the bottom line is the mechanically find other “clocks” that are ticking for the PCs (e.g., food supplies, oxygen supplies, exposure issues).

    I like your positive, pro-active solutions, but maybe they could come as rewards for avoiding some of the penalties I mentioned?

    Consider a party that decides to shack up in a dungeon for a night of rest just to get a couple of precious daily powers back.

    Describe the environment, and let them know it’s hazardous to sleep there. When they choose to move on without their dailies, let them know that their perseverance will give them a leg up on their next encounter in the form of an added action point.

    If they choose to sleep instead, hit ’em with a lost surge, potential disease exposure, and a 3am “battle” that you just RP quickly and say, “everyone loses 15 hp due to the rat swarm that overruns your camp in the night.”

    Comment by anarkeith | December 2, 2010 | Reply

    • I don’t know how wandering monsters play into the games that suffer this problem. Maybe the DMs don’t use them, maybe the PCs retreat to safer surroundings, or maybe the characters have magics that make them irrelevant.

      (in many editions the day that the MU could cast an 8 hour rope trick was the last time monsters were a night time problem)

      Comment by The Red DM | December 2, 2010 | Reply

  2. I like the idea of increased XP. It actually has a real-world correlation, if you think about it. If I go to the gym and do 1 or 2 chin-ups and nothing else that day I’m not going to get any stronger. However, if I push myself, try to break my PR, and do 23 chin-ups, then I’ll have broken down some muscle tissue and I’ll get stronger (XP!). Similarly, if I do numerous sets of a small number of chin-ups (like multiple encounters throughout the day), that will also break down muscle tissue (XP!).

    Comment by Dave | December 2, 2010 | Reply

  3. In my experience, the problem with rest is Magic more than anything else. Many magic systems exhaust the characters, thus encouraging lots and lots of rest.

    Comment by Greg Christopher | December 3, 2010 | Reply

  4. I like your suggestions. I’ve already been letting the players have an action point per encounter. Frankly, I thought it was a pain to track. (And by the way… why doesn’t character builder print out more of them?)

    Healing surges are the only resource we really worry about now.

    There is however another culprit to all this. Players don’t know how tough the next fight is, so they must always prepare for the worst.

    Worse still, if a DM is using a planned encounter or module, its hard if not impossible to drop in something easy. i.e. properly control the encounter difficulty based on the player’s\character’s state.

    (This is one reason I’m a fan of Delves over long Dungeons.)

    One thing I’ve done to whip off quick battles is carry a sheet of ‘generic’ monsters that are level appropriate. That way I can inject something in the adventure based on where the players are in the day… i.e. We have one hour left to play, and I know the boss fight will be 1.5-2 hours. Or I notice that the players are losing their attention, so I want to toss something out their fast. Or I know that if they do open that door, something really really bad will happen to them because they are unprepared.

    Lastly, if you think about it, 4e really tends to this problem. Its not that its hard to build and run an encounter, its that you HAVE to build it ahead of time. So adjust the game on the fly (a DM time honored technique) is not an option. That’s why the players must be prepared for the worst.

    Comment by UHF | December 5, 2010 | Reply

  5. […] 3 Rules Based Solutions to the 5 Minute Day (The Red Box Blog) […]

    Pingback by The 5-Minute Work Day: Solutions — Dungeon's Master | December 8, 2010 | Reply

  6. I have the problem in my games that my player’s hoard their dailies like a life preserver on a sinking ship. my fall back for players who want to rest too often is sleepy time ambushes or forcing players to sleep in shifts so only some of them half their dailies back at a time.

    Comment by Gestalt Gamer (Dan) | December 8, 2010 | Reply

  7. […] debate about the “5 minute workday” this week.  You can read about it here, here, here, and here.  Oh, and here. (Blogs not cited for serial […]

    Pingback by Weekly Roundup – Imaginative Tactics Edition | Roving Band of Misfits | December 12, 2010 | Reply

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